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  Adam Muszka - Biography  1914 - 2005

Biography by LILY BERGER

Adam Muszka paints the vanished smalltown as he sees it, as it lives in his imagination and conception. And that is deeply engraved in his memory with its former romanticism, its Sabbath-holiday image. The grey, poverty-stricken life is illumined and enriched by dreams.


When Adam Muszka stands at this easel and depicts that Jewish life in his canvasses, he breaks off from time to time, sits down at the piano opposite the varicoloured wall and floats off into the upper world of melody. This too he acquired from his birthplace Piotrokow, direct from his orthodox home steeped in song from generation to generation.


Piotrokow-Muszka can talk for hours about the fame of this Jewish town: her rabbis and judges, public figures, the Hebrew gymnasium, the large, old synagogue built in 1791.

One celebrity of Jewish Piotrokow was the famous cantor Akiva Muszka-Ofter, the painter's grandfather. Reb Akiva was famous not only for this voice, but also for his musical compositions. Self-taught, he composed and himself wrote the notes which amazed professional musicians.
He created a distinctive liturgical music. The manuscripts of his compositions are said to be zealously preserved by his former chorus members, pupils and friends.


All Akiva's four sons inherited his musical gifts. They were all cantors in various cities and towns. One of them, Adam Muszka's father, became cantor at Piotrokow.


At his home assembled from time to time all the brothers, members of their choirs and simply music lovers.
The poor home then reverberated with rich tones. These were real cantorial concerts.


Adam Muszka came into the world in such a home on the fourth of March 1914.

To the age of 10 he was the prototype of  Cheder pupils seen on his canvasses.
He afterwards studied in a Polish public school. It's then that the gifted boy lived through the drama of his musical father who lost his voice and his position as cantor.

In search of bread, his parents were compelled to leave their hometown and settle in Warsaw. Here Adam, the youngest of the nine children, finished commercial school and became a clerk in order to contribute to the meager family income.
He at the same time studied at the City School of Decorative Arts.


He was at first drawn to the landscape to shich he ofter returns. For his first steps in painting  he took off to Kazimierz, where artists used to gather more often before the war than they do now in the plaine air.

After the war Muszka returned from distant Tashkent with his life saved and a cycle of landscape-acquarelles. He found his home in ruins. His hometown, Piotrokow, was destined to have the first ghetto, while the large, beautiful synagogue where his father was cantor and where his grandfather's – Reb Akiva's - tunes could move a stone, was transformed into a German extermination point. The most gruesome scenes were enacted here.

Here the Germans drove the Piotrokow Jews like into a slaughter house. From here the survivors were transported to the ultimate extermination centers, until the entire community of 18 000 Jew were anihilated. These terrible events left their powerful stamp upon the artist.

Recently the cultural department of the Piotrokow City Council requested Muszka to paint the ceiling of the ruined synagogue which is to be rebuilt into a House of Culture.

The artist hesitated for a long time. It's indeed a difficult experience to paint where his Grandfather and father sang, where every nook and corner was so close to him, where the hitlerite wild beasts perpetrated their unrestrained brutalities.

He  nevertheless decided to undertake the project.

And remarkable-the former smalltown came to life, Jewish life returned: in its greyness and colourfullness; but over it hovers a symbolic bird with broken wings.

Like a tree every artist draws nourishment from his own soil. And  even if he be torn away from it he will continue partly, if not wholly, to sustain himself on the first living juices.

But art is a complex of multiform phenomena. The artist forges is art not in one mould, dependent on the Godly spark called talent and a measure of innovation. From his inner flame and also from the external winds he internally digests the nourishment he drew with his sprouting roots. His overall creativeness is compounded of an endless variety of external influences, but in the first place of his own  inner impulses.


The creative road of Adam Muszka was apparently far from being easy or straight.

But a review of his work of the last decade decidedly indicates the constant deepening of his painting and, most important, the artistic quests and probing - the indispensable preconditions for living art.


Muszka is a realist. But that doesn't say everyting. A variety of roads and bypaths lead from the classical, conventional to the contemporary realism. In realism Muszka seeks a new mode of expression. Although there is visible here and there the strong influence of Chagal, Muszka has his own painting individuality. He creates with his painting idiom his own genre, as is to be seen in the great cycle of oil paintings, which Polish critics have crowned with the title, "Juidica"


This is a distinct plastic world – full of feeling, lyrical, delicate, dreamy, non-dynamic and romantic in content. And it is all enveloped in a hushed and deep solitude, in Jewish sadness and contemplation.

As if the foreboding of their later tragic fate already lay over the people and their milieu. Both the manner of painting and the colour scheme create this atmosphere.


Muszka applies paint flatly, at times in broad planes. His colouristic is placid, subdued. Evel the illuminated sunny colours are as if extimguished. Only individual pictures are painted expressively, sharp with dark, cold colours, like the two boys on the way home from Cheder at night. It seems that the atmosphere and solouristic are in this case really dictated by the  theme: the tragically crippled life. Since the leitmotif of the artist's creation is the psychic state, the impulses, there gradually emerges an appropriate style, a method.


Adam Muszka also expresses himself in black and white, black touche on white paper. In sketching as in composition he is characterized by preciseness. There is at times evident a light cubistic composition. Such an inclination is clearly visible in his large mural at the Lodz Jewish Club.


It doesn't seem that Muszka intends to limit himself to one genre. He has tried his hand at sculpture. It fell to him to create the memorial to the exterminated Jews of Lodz. He has recently occupied himself with etching in both black on white and in his distinct colour scheme. Here too he clings to his theme.


At present Muszka's pictures are to be found at the Warsaw National Gallery, the Lodz Museum of Art, the collections of the Ministry of Culture, the Jewish Historical Institute and other Jewish institutions in Poland as well as in private collections abroad.